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I feel compelled to comment on recent articles and opinions published in the Star Tribune regarding the role of the state's regulatory agencies over our natural resources ("Elko New Market's request to increase water use for bottling plants gets DNR's OK," June 14, and "Environmental laws only work if they are enforced," June 21).

As a concerned citizen, I realize the hundreds of millions of gallons a year for the proposed Niagara bottling company is a fraction of the 776 million gallons of groundwater used daily in all of Minnesota (as of 2015 according to U.S. Geological Survey). However, it is my understanding that the level of the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer declined substantially (90 feet in some places) from 1880 to 1980 with increasing population and land use in southeastern Minnesota. This has only accelerated since 1980. Although there are projected slight increases in annual rainfall for recharging surface waters, the projected decline in the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer by 2030 is significant.

It is hard for me to reconcile the withdrawal of water for out-of-state commercial purposes (sale to Walmart and Costco) when people living in the east metro area (whose water comes from this aquifer) must use bottled water because of PFAS contamination, and others whose well water for many miles around Elko New Market will get worse if the groundwater levels continue to fall. It is especially concerning that the city of Elko New Market is tasked with coming up with a plan for mitigating well damage within a 2-mile radius, but has not yet come up with concrete plans.

It seems to me that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is shortsighted in the scope of its assessment, not only for the amount of territory likely to be affected by this new development but for the projections of water needs in the foreseeable future. If I knew that this precious resource was going be reserved for the millions of people in the U.S. whose drinking water has already been compromised by agricultural and industrial pollution, I'd feel a lot better about it.

Currently, it is very difficult to have an impact on poor permitting practices and oversight by the DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It usually requires costly and time-consuming litigation. The damage done is often not completely remedied. For this reason, it is very important to have citizens' boards to review and approve actions by these agencies. The MPCA had such a board until the Legislature dissolved it in 2015 due to lobbying efforts by large scale farming operations. The DNR has never had one.

Citizens' boards were composed of people who were knowledgeable about environmental issues and laws. They provided a forum for public and experts' input before decisions were made. Gov. Tim Walz and our legislators should reinstate the MPCA Citizens' Board — and add one for the DNR — to more fully protect our state's future.

Dr. Sara Langer, of Minneapolis is a retired physician.